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31 Transformative Ways to Celebrate Women’s History Month

Join us this month as members of our Progressive Interfaith Alliance team celebrate 31 days of honoring and celebrating Women’s History Month 2024.

Seven Contributions from Rev Gordon Clay Bailey

Some years ago, March 2017, I read an article by Mia Mercado called “31 Empowering Ways To Celebrate Women’s History This Month.” I was so impressed with her take that I borrowed a bit from her and now share a short list with you.

While I won’t share all of her brilliant ideas here, I would like to offer a few thoughts, as we at Progressive Interfaith Alliance celebrate Women’s History Month with services, a movie, continuing conversations, and important dialogue all month long about the amazing women that shape, mold, change, inspire, and create a better world for all of us.

I also want to remind you that our own women, Unitarian Universalist Women, have been so vital in changing our beloved faith and nation. So, let’s lift up women this month and all year long. Let’s celebrate the amazing accomplishments of more than half of the human family. Let’s give love to all of the women that have made a difference in our own lives.

Check out my short list and please let me know if any of these ideas resonate with you?

There are 31 days in Women’s History Month. Here are a few ways to transform yourself and the women around you this month.

I can’t wait to discuss, promote, dialog, engage, and sermonize my love for mothers, sisters, aunts, friends, leaders, teachers, preachers, visionary women that have shaped my life, and, if the truth be told and acknowledged, given life to us all.

Day 1. Thank a woman who you would like to be like. Write her a letter. Send her a message on Facebook. If she is no longer with us, send her loving thoughts.

Day 2. Read about women’s history, especially those great females that have done awesome things. See if you could choose a woman from a radically different race, class, or creed than your own upbringing.

Day 3. Find a new favorite motivational quote. Check out a list of feminist quotes. Share those quotes or the ones that touch your heart and mind widely!

Day 4. Listen to your favorite feminist anthems. Listen to your all time favorite music created by women. Go and buy music by women!

Day 5. Watch a documentary on a history-making woman.

Day 6. Educate yourself with some facts about feminism. Start with any video about a famous woman or a hidden figure that helped transform our world. Some of them you can watch in the time it takes to eat a doughnut.

Day 7. As good UU’s or potential UU’s look to our own denomination for inspiration. We have and have had some of the most amazing women in history. Come to Sunday services with a woman from our denomination’s story to share.

Eight Contributions from Lisa Bailey

As a person who is cis-gendered (I was assigned female at birth and I identify as female), this month has a lot of meaning, but I’d like to caution us and make it less about cisgendered women and also include the history of those who are female presenting! Having said that, I only included 1 transgender woman on my very short list. I attempted to share women I thought you might not know. 2 of them I have a personal connection to, one I met a couple of times, and the other I know a little bit. They are also women who have done or are currently doing unprecedented things. I love when we surprise one another, and even more when we surprise ourselves.

I grew up with extremely sexist and narrow views of women, and sadly, I internalized a lack of self worth because of the examples I saw around me and the messages I received by how I was treated. I was always very aware of how unfairly some other folks were treated and stood up more than once when I was a kid against injustice. However, I didn’t realize I needed to stand up for myself as well! Once I became an adult and found my agency and my voice, I began to speak out and developed into the activist I am today, very intentionally. I am moved to tears when I hear stories of others who did / do for others what I could not do for myself all those years ago.

I also want to mention, I included mostly Black women and other women of color, because Black History, Women’s History, Indigenous History, Transgender History, Asian History, Hispanic HIstory, Latina / Latino History, etc. IS AMERICAN HISTORY, period. Enjoy!

Day 8. Linda Sarsour (1980 – ) is an award-winning racial justice and civil rights activist, seasoned community organizer, direct action strategist, and mother of three. Ambitious, outspoken, and independent, Linda shatters stereotypes of Muslim women, while also treasuring her religious and ethnic heritage. She is a Palestinian Muslim American and a self-proclaimed “pure New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn!” She is the co-founder of the first Muslim online organizing platform, MPower Change and co-founder of Until Freedom, an intersectional racial justice organization focused on direct action and power building in communities of color. Until Freedom is best known for their work on the Breonna Taylor police murder case in Louisville, Kentucky.

Linda was one of the national co-chairs of the largest single day of protest in US history, the Women’s March on Washington. She has been named amongst 500 of the most influential Muslims in the world. She was recognized as one of Fortune’s 50 Greatest Leaders and featured as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. Linda was the youngest woman and first Muslim to receive the Margaret Brent Medal at St. Mary’s College. She has been honored by dozens of local and national entities, including the New York Women’s Foundation, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, The New York City Council, President Barack Obama, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, The Black Institute, NAACP New York Conference, and the Ms. Foundation. Linda is the author of “We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders: A Memoir of Love & Resistance,” published by Simon & Schuster, and “We’re In This Together,” aimed at young teens. She is most recognized for her transformative intersectional organizing work and movement building.

Day 9. In 1985, Oklahoma native Wilma Mankiller (1945 – 2010) became the first woman to be Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, leading the largest tribe in the United States (and received a Time 100 cover). During her decade-long chiefdom from 1985 to 1995, “tribal enrollment grew, infant mortality dropped, and employment rates doubled,” according to Time. In 1998, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton. Read “Mankiller: A Chief and Her People” to learn more about her.

Day 10. A K’iche’ Maya woman from Guatemala, Rigoberta Menchú (1959 – ) became a prominent advocate for indigenous rights and social justice. Her family was affected by Guatemala’s civil war, leading her to activism. Menchú’s work gained international attention, with the publication of “I, Rigoberta Menchú,” detailing her life and the struggles of indigenous people in Guatemala. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, making her one of the most famous women in history for her efforts to promote indigenous rights and peace.

Day 11. During a time when sports predominantly consisted of white male owners and athletes, Effa Manley (1897 – 1981) refused to subscribe to gender and racial stereotypes. Along with her husband, Abe, Manley co-owned the Newark Eagles, a baseball team in the Negro Leagues. The team won the Negro League World Series in 1946, and when Abe died in 1952, she became the sole owner. Manley was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006 (the first—and only—woman to have this honor). Her life is chronicled in the picture book “She Loved Baseball.”

Day 12. At the age of 15, Lynda Blackmon Lowery (1950 – ) was on a mission to bring about change in the segregated South. She was the youngest person ever to take part in the Selma Voting Rights March of 1965, at the age of 15. She wrote the memoir “Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom” to share her unique experience during the civil rights movement.

Day 13. During World War II, Marion Pritchard (1920 – 2016) risked her own life to protect Jews. She found ways to sneak food into ghettos, provide fake IDs, and even place infants in non-Jewish homes. She hid a family under the floorboards in her living room when three Nazis and a Dutch collaborator appeared at her door. They’d remained undetected until the collaborator later returned. She shot and killed him to protect the family. In total, it’s believed that Pritchard saved 150 Jews during the Holocaust.

Day 14. As the first woman of color and first Asian American woman in the U.S. Congress, Patsy Mink (1927 – 2002) was a passionate advocate for women’s rights, education, and environmental protection. She co-authored the landmark Title IX legislation, which prohibits sex discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Day 15. Along with Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera (1951 – 2002), a Venezuelan-Puerto Rican trans woman, was one of the original activists who spoke up for trans people during the gay rights movement. She participated in the Stonewall uprising and launched the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) organization in 1970, which provided aid and shelter for trans youth living in New York City. She also fought for transgender people to be included in New York’s Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project was named in her honor, and serves as a resource to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

Eight Contributions from Geneys Landry

As the mommy of a growing eight year old girl, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight a few women throughout history that I hope influence my daughter to become more curious, strong, brave, confident, and driven by her own convictions. This, in no way, represents a comprehensive list, as there are so many more women we should learn more about. I had a heck of a time choosing just eight.

I felt that these women embodied the smarts, courage, and determination that oftentimes gets dismissed, forgotten or overlooked because of their gender. A few names may sound familiar, but I hope I am able to introduce you to a couple of new ones.

Day 16. Alice Ball (1892 – 1916) passed away from illness at the young age of 24, but before she died, she developed the “Ball Method,” the most effective method for treating leprosy. At the time, people that contracted leprosy were kept isolated in leper colonies, left to suffer from pain and disfigurement.

While at the University of Hawaii, Alice Ball studied the oil from the chaulmoogra tree, and found that it could be used to treat leprosy with mixed results. She discovered a way to extract the active elements from the oil and created a form that could safely be injected into the patient’s bloodstream. The results were amazing!

Unfortunately, Alice Ball died before publishing her findings, and the University of Hawaii took credit. She was never recognized for her work and achievements until many years after her death. She was also the first African American and the first woman to graduate from the University of Hawaii.

Day 17. Corrie Ten Boom (1892 – 1983) was born in a watch shop in the Netherlands. Her grandfather was a watchmaker, and Corrie grew up to become the first female watchmaker in Holland.

World War II happened, and Corrie Ten Boom and her family opened their home to any Jews in need. She built a secret room behind a false wall in her bedroom and joined the Dutch Underground, which was an organization that worked to obstruct the Nazis and their persecution of people.

She was betrayed by a Dutch informant one day, however, and the Gestapo raided her home. They found evidence proving that she was part of the Dutch Underground, but they were not able to locate the secret room, or the 6 people hiding inside. Corrie and her sister were sent to prison for almost a year.

Corrie and her family saved over 800 Jews.

Day 18. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (1977 – ) grew up in Nigeria and loved to read books. She even started writing her own books when she was seven years old.

She became an excellent writer, and won the MacArthur Genius Grant and the Pen Pinter Prize, among many others. Chimamanda has traveled all over the world. Her topics have covered Nigeria, gender equality, racism, and even fashion. She was also named BBC’s 100 Women of 2021.

“Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.”

Day 19. Hedy Lamarr (1914 – 2000) was an actress and inventor. She grew up in Austria and married Friedrich Mandle, an arms dealer. She later fled the country because her husband proved to be a cruel man. In the US, her film career took off when she met a famous Hollywood producer named Louis B Mayer.

Between movies, she invented a new traffic stoplight, a new communication system that could evade enemy interruption in radio frequency, and improved airplane efficiency. Her important work paved the way for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology.

Day 20. Joan Beauchamp Procter (1897 – 1931) was a world expert in herpetology, the branch of zoology that deals with reptiles and amphibians. As a young girl, she was not interested in keeping pet cats or dogs; she asked for lizards and snakes!

When she was older, she designed a new reptile house for the London zoo, and people watched her handle dangerous pythons, crocodiles, and even Komodo dragons. In fact, a Komodo dragon named Sumbawa became her special pet and followed Joan everywhere.

She knew how to feed the reptiles, how to pet them, and she also knew their signs of sickness and what to do to restore them to health.

Day 21. Nadia Murad (1993 – ) was born in the village of Kocho, Iraq. She was the youngest of 11 siblings, and her parents were farmers. When she was 19, ISIS invaded Kocho, killed her mother and brothers, and kidnapped Nadia. They made her a slave, and she was tortured and raped. She was able to escape after three months and made it safely to a refugee camp.

She settled in Germany and started an organization called “Nadia’s Initiative,” which helps women and children suffering from genocide, mass atrocities, and human trafficking. In 2018, she, along with Denis Mukwege, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”

Day 22. Mary Seacole (1805 – 1881) was born in Jamaica to a woman who used the ancient African art of using herbs to make medicine. Mary grew up learning how to cure people of all sorts of ailments. As an adult, she started to travel outside her town of Kingston to learn more about herbs and cure more people.

When the Crimean War broke out, she traveled to Crimea with her own resources and opened the British Hotel. This location would serve as a prosperous hospital for wounded soldiers. Mary was not afraid of battle and would travel to the front lines to bring food and medicine to the soldiers.

After returning home, she wrote a book called “Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands.” It turned out to be a best-seller.

Day 23. Virginia Hall (1906 – 1982) was a spy. She studied French, German, and Italian in college and eventually traveled to Europe to finish her education. Virginia became known as the “Limping Lady” after she tripped over a fence and accidentally shot herself in the leg while hunting. She named her wooden leg “Cuthbert.”

During WWII, she became an ambulance driver for the French army and met a British Intelligence Officer named George Bellows He was impressed by her and referred her to his friend, Nicholas Bodington, for employment. Bodington worked for the Special Operations Executive, and Virginia joined.

By the end of the war, Virginia’s team destroyed four bridges, derailed several trains, cut down telephone wires, and captured hundreds of enemy soldiers. She was the master of disguise and the Gestapo declared her “the most dangerous of all Allied spies.” She received a medal for her bravery.

Eight Contributions from Susan Ermisch

So you know who I am, let me share a bit about myself. I am a middle-aged, married, fluffy, white woman with two college-aged children, and I manage a call center for a large corporation.

I started to write these reflections about two weeks ago. It has become quite an interesting process to take the time to myself to write these. Settling to sit and reflect to write these between working full time, having my daughter home from college on spring break, and keeping up with family and social obligations became more of a chore than I originally thought it would be when I agreed to put these together.

So I thought why take this on all by myself? Women’s History Month isn’t just about one month. Women have shaped the world, both in the past and are still doing so in the present. So, I enlisted my community of wise women for assistance. The following reflections are mine, my 20-something daughter’s, and a wonderful group of crones.

I invite you to take what works for you and leave what isn’t helpful on the page. It may seem a bit random at times, but that is who we are as the inspiring women of today.

Day 24. Wisdom and Confidence. After so many life experiences, I feel like I have an arsenal of tools, maybe even weapons, to rely on for nearly any situation. For someone who likes to feel “in control,” this has helped me loosen my grip. It’s actually liberating.

I now appreciate the adage: “I don’t care what others think now that I’m older.” It’s not really that I don’t care, but that I’m less concerned about others’ opinions.

I have a clearer sense of self and feel more authentic.

Confidence is another strength to cultivate and appreciate. And with it, I believe, comes the ability to set boundaries and say “no.” This was advice I gained from my friend group of crones.

“Crone” for this context: the archetype of the wise woman or the third aspect of the triple goddess in neopagan beliefs, representing the phase of the life cycle after motherhood, embodying wisdom, maturity, and repose. “I am Crone. In my body is the Maiden and the Mother. See me now as your eyes see me. Rather, see me with your heart, the completion of the Goddess.” -Jade-Sword

Day 25. Joy. My husband and I learned to enJOY our kids when they were little and to play with them. It was liberating, and such a great reminder to learn from others at all ages. And now, I get even more joy from my adult kids. Spending time with them is one of my favorite things to do. I continue to learn from them.

I suspect these types of feelings are what others speak of when they have grandchildren.

Day 26. Keep Playing and Learning. Find something that makes you dance, laugh, sing… Just play. And through play, we learn about ourselves and others.

I have found with getting older, I dance more.

Take yourself on a date night!!

“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” -George Burns

Mentoring… You are never too old to have a mentor or to be a mentor.

Day 27. Grace. Grace comes in many forms: spiritual, social, personal, and artistic. In all these facets of grace, there are actions and beliefs encompassing kindness, compassion, and elegance.

“The word ‘anti-aging’ has to be struck. I am pro-aging. I want to age with intelligence, and grace, and dignity, and verve, and energy.” -Jamie Lee Curtis

So… Give some GRACE to others as well as yourself. No one is perfect, and certainly not perfect every day.

Day 28. Creativity. We have experienced so many great things (paintings, sculptures, poetry, film, dance, and more) from creative women. We can all be creative in our own ways and there are so many benefits. Creativity is a valuable life skill that enhances well-being and personal development. This certainly ties into the reflections on playing, learning and joy.

Creativity offers a multitude of benefits that can positively impact various aspects of life. Here are some key advantages:

  • Mental Health: Engaging in creative activities relieves stress, anxiety, and depression. Helps to process emotions and foster a sense of accomplishment.
  • Cognitive Function: Creativity stimulates the brain, leading to improved problem-solving skills and the ability to see things from different perspectives.
  • Emotional Well-being: Creative expression can enhance self-awareness and self-esteem, contributing to greater emotional resilience.
  • Physical Health: Creativity may even reduce the risk of chronic illnesses and improve immune system function.
  • Social Connections: Sharing creative work can lead to increased social interaction and a sense of community.
  • Personal Growth: Creativity encourages personal growth by pushing boundaries and fostering a growth mindset.

Day 29. Support. “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” -Maya Angelou

“Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another, we’re strongest when we cheer each other on.” -Serena Williams

“We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never mean to.” -Brene Brown

And my daughter, Molly’s advice for women: “Stick together!”

And a couple more:
Tell others how great they are.
Support yourself and know you are ENOUGH.

Day 30. Gratitude. I have practiced a daily ritual of gratitude… I am also a “glass half-full” kind of girl. It helps me take a breath and put things into perspective.

Gratitude Changes Everything: Instead of saying, “I have to,” start your day with, “I get to!”

  • I get to exercise.
  • I get to see my friends and family.
  • I get to tell someone I love them.
  • I get to eat good food.
  • I get to work and earn money.
  • I get to experience new things.
  • I get to make someone’s day better.

Day 31. Just because I love Ted Lasso. Here are 13 leadership lessons from Ted Lasso:

  • Be sincere.
  • Stay teachable.
  • See good in others.
  • Happiness is a choice.
  • Winning is an attitude.
  • Have confidence in yourself.
  • Optimists take more chances.
  • Everyone differs from everyone else.
  • Courage is the willingness to attempt.
  • Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness.
  • Doing the right thing is never the wrong thing.
  • Be curious, not judgmental.
  • Be a goldfish. Don’t allow one bad deed to define who you are. In less than ten seconds, forget about it like a goldfish.